Baby Come Back: The Unborn II (1994)

A diminished return? Meh, slightly — but Matty still thinks there’s a lot to like about this lively, Rick Jacobson-helmed sequel.

Initially offered to the first film’s helmer, Rodman Flender, and then briefly earmarked as the maiden directorial venture of the original’s star, Brooke Adams, THE UNBORN II eventually came to be under the stewardship of Rick Jacobson. A sturdy pair of hands, the twenty-two year-old wunderkind had already impressed The Unborn II’s producer and exec producer, Mike Elliott and Roger Corman, with his work on their martial arts epics Blackbelt (1989), Full Contact (1993), and Dragon Fire (1993) — and with that in mind, there’s certainly an action-oriented bent to this surprisingly knockabout sequel, peppered as it is with a couple of gunfights and a well done car chase. Indeed, compared to Flender’s laconic and more serious-minded offering, ‘louder’ and ‘sillier’ are the operative words for The Unborn II — traits amplified by Jacobson’s boisterous approach to the material.

Possessing a visual style not too dissimilar to fellow DTV practitioner par excellence Anthony Hickox, Jacobson is a filmmaker with an eye for bold composition and dynamic roving camerawork, and he and cinematographer Mike Gallagher [1] infuse The Unborn II with a bright, airy sheen that serves as an ironic counter to its black-hearted narrative. Because as exuberant and broad as The Unborn II is in presentation and tone, there’s a deeply upsetting core to Mark Evan Schwartz and Daniella Purcell’s weighty screenplay.

Built from an earlier draft concocted by Rob Kerchner, the film begins with a genuinely shocking prologue that finds the sharply dressed Linda Holt (Robin Curtis — aka ‘the lass who replaced Kirstie Alley as Saavik in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)’) shooting a young boy at point blank range in a packed park in broad daylight. It’s a real throat-grabber — and from there, the dramatic meat quickly piles up as The Unborn II prods and probes such heavy topics as postnatal depression (an obvious yet clever thematic extension considering the original’s exploration of prenatal tensions), and the life-changing adjustments that come with a severely disabled child. Of further note is the strong character shading of The Unborn II’s leads and their respective performers. Curtis is excellent as Holt, a former patient of the first flick’s Dr. Meyerling and an angry, broken force determined to exterminate every last one of the mad quack’s IVF creations (just think of her as the antithesis of John P. Ryan in Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive (1974) follow-up, It Lives Again (1978)); Family Ties-cum-’90s Corman semi-regular Scott Valentine submits a fine turn as a single father significantly crazier than his affable ‘aww shucks’ demeanour lets on; and Michele Greene essays a wonderfully complicated heroine, vividly inhabiting her role of a blinkered mother determined to protect her mutant sprog at any cost.   

Said terror tot is cobbled together by Gabe Bartalos. Obscenely fake-looking, limited in its movements, and, as Entertainment Weekly also clocked upon The Unborn II’s U.S. tape release in April 1994, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the late Powers Boothe [2] — it’s safe to say that the murderous bambino nestles towards the bottom end of the FX wiz’s generally impressive resume. However, credit where it’s due: the Henenlotter stalwart does manage to imbue the ugly lil’ bastard with just enough shabby beauty for him to pass muster in that hard to define ‘rubbish/brilliant’ sort of way.

Curiously, despite everything about the film merrily screaming ‘direct-to-video’, there’s a (so far) unverifiable rumour floating around online that Corman booked The Unborn II a few theatrical playdates in a Florida fleapit a fortnight prior to its stateside cassette bow. Answers on a postcard, please. In Germany, VHS distributor Empire (no, not that Empire) issued The Unborn II as a sequel to Alain Robak’s unrelated neonatal nightmare, Baby Blood (1990). Alas, here in the U.K. it remains unreleased.

USA ● 1994 ● Horror ● 84mins

Michele Greene, Scott Valentine, Robin Curtis ● Dir. Rick Jacobson ● Wri. Mark Evan Schwartz and Daniella Purcell, from a story by Rob Kerchner

[1] Another Corman staple, Gallagher — who, on The Unborn II’s IMDb, is erroneously listed as ‘Mark Gallagher’ — would also lens Dragon Fire and Bloodfist VI: Ground Zero (1995) for Jacobson.
[2] The Unborn II Review by Doug Brood, Entertainment Weekly, 15th April 1994

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